If Only Jobs Were as Sleek & Beautiful as an Apple Product
- Friday, August 16, 2013
DVD Release Date: November 26, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: August 16, 2013
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some drug content and brief strong language
Genre: Biography | Drama
Run Time: 122 minutes
Director: Joshua Michael Stern
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, J.K. Simmons, Dermot Mulroney, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine, Lesley Ann Warren, Ron Eldard, James Woods
"When you can touch someone’s heart... that's limitless." Steve Jobs touched a lot of hearts (and wallets) through his groundbreaking work in computing. He was a visionary, a genius... and as this biopic shows, sometimes a real jerk.
After a brief scene of Jobs (Ashton Kutcher, No Strings Attached) introducing the iPod, we're taken on a sentimental journey from Jobs' college dropout days through the beginning of Apple Computers in his parents' garage to the beginning of the iRevolution. His friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad, in a beautifully nuanced performance) created the original parts and pieces of a personal computer, but it took Jobs to see the possibilities. Together they and a few friends changed the way we use computers, and by extension, changed all our lives.
It sounds like a great American dream story, and it is—but to their credit, the filmmakers show us the bad and the downright ugly along with the good. Jobs is no plaster saint: he cheats his friends, bullies his employees, and steamrolls over anyone who gets in his way. Personal hygiene was clearly not a priority and he didn't seem to grasp the concept of forgiveness. For anyone. For anything. Ever. When his girlfriend tells him she's pregnant, Jobs denies responsibility, telling her "I'm sorry you have a problem but it's not happening to me," then kicks her out of the house. Accepting responsibility seems to have been an ongoing problem for Steve Jobs, one that very nearly destroyed his company along with his personal life. However, there's nothing like success to make people overlook bad behavior, so Jobs' eccentricities and bad habits are mostly accepted as part of the package.
Kutcher plays Jobs with an unflinching determination, capturing many of Jobs' mannerisms like his shambling stride and nervous tics. When his eyes light up as he catches the vision of a "personal computer" it reminds us what an amazing invention it is. Watching him try to get other people on board with this crazy idea reminds us just how recently the home computer revolution came about. Viewers may not like Jobs as a person, but his foresight and passion for making beautiful, useful things can't help but inspire respect and even admiration.
If only the film had been as sleek and beautiful as an iWhatever. It reads more like a TV movie than a major motion picture, a heavy-handed reminder of who Steve Jobs was, as if we didn't know. Take that moment with the iPod: what was that for? Then there's a big ol' screaming hissy fit Jobs throws on the phone with Bill Gates—a scene that drops in out of nowhere and leads nowhere (maybe it's a dig at all the PC users in the audience?). A long, boring, drug-induced dance may be meant to show us what a free-spirited genius Jobs was, but it just wastes time.
Except for the opening scene, the story moves in the usual biographical "and then this happened" kind of narrative, jumping forward now and then in a jerky fashion. While it's impossible to show every key moment, these jumps don't make for the smoothest character development. Gad, whose Wozniak comes off as the hero of the piece, handles the leaps better than Kutcher. So does Dermot Mulroney (Space Warriors), who plays angel investor Mike Markkula, the only real grownup in the original Apple. You can see the wear and tear as he morphs from investor to friend and business associate to... well, let's just say Jobs held grudges and paybacks can be unpleasant.
Jobs ends on what is clearly designed to be an inspirational high note, but grumbling was heard from the audience that the story ended too soon. It did seem odd that the iPhone wasn't even hinted at yet; the abrupt ending made for an unsatisfying finish to what was really only a moderately interesting film. At one point Wozniak mourns over Jobs, "You're the beginning and end of your own world and it's so small." Sadly, so is this movie. Maybe this is the beta? Unless you’re a diehard, early-adopter Apple fan, I’d hold out for version 2.0.
CAUTIONS (may include spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Characters drink alcoholic beverages on multiple social occasions and occasionally alone. College students are seen both talking about and smoking pot and several people smoke regular cigarettes, as well. Drug use leads to several people lounging around in a woozy haze and Jobs has some kind of ecstatic experience apparently brought on by whatever was in his system.
- Language/Profanity: By today's standards not a ton of profanity, but the popular words all made an appearance: f-word, d-word, s-word, b-word, Jesus used as epithet, a**hole, he**.
- Sex/Nudity: Couples shown in bed with the inference being they have had sex; man's bare chest seen in more than one scene. Jobs' girlfriend accuses him of fathering her child, something he denies even after a paternity test proves otherwise. There's a Polish joke that seems to be going down a sexual path but actually turns out to be tame. A poster of a girl in a bikini is referred to and briefly shown.
- Violent/Frightening/Intense: Jobs throws a lot of temper tantrums and is hateful to people on a fairly regular basis, but his behavior is more irritating than frightening or intense.
- Spiritual Themes: Jobs and friends discuss "what did the guru tell us?" and are seen listening to an Eastern religious practitioner's teaching. He and a friend visit India and are shown reading from some kind of religious study guide while there. Jobs is shown to be a terrible example of personal responsibility; at least in the film, any sense of integrity he may have had applied only to products, not people. There is some sense that he mellowed a bit by the end, but it's a subtle hint. Not exactly role model material.
Publication date: August 16, 2013
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